I can hardly recall a conversation in Dublin this past summer when no one mentioned the “Celtic Tiger,” the irritating catch phrase commonly used to describe the runaway Irish economy. This boom or bubble is transforming the country, in particular the capital city—and not necessarily for the better. While prosperity is obviously welcome, it is happening too fast. Before winning her independence from Britain in the 1920s, this country, with its large landed estates, was practically a feudal society. A commonly expressed witticism asserts that Ireland has leapt straight from the nineteenth century to the twenty-first, bypassing the twentieth century altogether. One might even enlarge that exaggeration by asking whether the Romantic movement ever hit Ireland—in which case the leap began somewhere in the late eighteenth century.

What has drawn me to visit Dublin once or twice a year over the past decade has nothing to...

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